Everett - In the late hours of 15 March, USS FORD (FFG 54) concluded her week-long participation in Task Group Exercises with three Canadian ships, the HMCS ALGONQUIN (DDG 283), the HMCS OTTAWA (FFH 341), and the HMCS REGINA (FFH 334).
Having joined the task group on March 10 after sailing north from San Diego, FORD immediately jumped into the mix with boarding exercises conducted by all of the units’ Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) teams. VBSS would be a theme of the operations, as several days featured intensive mock boardings across the platforms as tactics, ideas, and tips were traded among ships and nations.
In total, FORD sent 12 of her Sailors to two different vessels for overnight stays. In exchange for her Sailors did she host 12 guests of her own. As important an experience as a joint exercise is for the operational proficiency of the respective watchstanders, learning comes also in the cultural exchange, and this event proved to be no exception in this regard.
Other exercises included a coordinated hunt for a submarine, the HMCS VICTORIA (SSK 876). The Anti-Submarine Warfare portions of the exercise were conducted in Canadian waters north of the Strait of Georgia.
Coordinated training did not stop there. With four ships total in formation, screens and maneuvering evolutions were practiced and perfected over several sessions. These formations and movements were the first such evolutions experienced by several of FORD’s newly-reported Ensigns, and the experience gained was priceless.
The entirety of the operation concluded with a scenario conducted at FORD’s behest. All four ships went to anchorage in Plumper Sound and waited for nightfall. Upon sunset, coordinated small boat attacks simulated by the ships’ RHIBs set upon the anchored ships, thereby flexing the progression of each ship’s Force Protection capabilities.
It was from FORD where the officer in charge of the exercise, Commodore Peter Ellis, Commander Canadian Pacific Fleet, watched the Force Protection exercise. In the end, he had not only kind words for the work ethic and proficiency of FORD’s crew, but also expressed an interest in repeating these joint operations with greater frequency than is currently conducted.
The Americans and the Canadian Commodore were not the only people pleased with the extent of the learning and training that was had over the previous seven days. Said LT Mike Ronaldson, Alpha One (team leader) of ALGONQUIN’s VBSS team: “We don’t get the opportunity to board or work with very many vessels from other countries, so it brings new experiences and new platforms for training. We got to board each other’s ships and show each other skills and training. It’s good to know how someone else works so if in the future you work with them again there will be a connection.”